Tony Meola joins Kearny greats and former World Cup teammates John Harkes and Tab Ramos as members of the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame
Former U.S. Men's National Team goalkeeper Tony Meola is "humbled and honored" by his Hall of Fame inclusion. Photo courtesy of wjarrettc/flickr.com
The truth be told, Tony Meola didn’t give much thought about the United States National Soccer Hall of Fame balloting process, even though the Kearny native and World Cup goalkeeper appeared on the ballot for the first time this year.
“Once I found out I was nominated, I knew how difficult it is to get in,” Meola said. “I know that some guys don’t get in. It shows just how hard it is.”
However, in reality, it wasn’t that hard, as Meola gained entrance into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame Wednesday in his first try.
The former Kearny High great who played on three World Cup squads received better than 90 percent of the vote from the hundreds of voters (sportswriters, contributors and current Hall of Fame members) to gain entrance.
“It’s a huge thrill,” Meola said in a phone interview shortly after the news was released Wednesday. “Since it came out today (Wednesday), it’s been a huge weight off my shoulders, because I only let a few people know. When I got the call last week, I was just floored by it. I never thought this was possible.”
Meola joins Kearny greats and former World Cup teammates John Harkes and Tab Ramos as members of the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame. Both Harkes and Ramos gained induction in 2005. Meola was not eligible for induction until this year because he was still actively playing professional soccer three years ago, the latest with the New Jersey Ironmen in the Major Indoor Soccer League.
Meola, who ironically was a forward during his senior year at Kearny and scored a then-record 32 goals in a season, was the member of three U.S. World Cup teams, serving as the team’s top goalkeeper in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups, then as a reserve in 2002. He earned 100 caps for Team USA and had 37 wins, including 32 shutouts. Meola was also a standout in the Major League Soccer, winning the MLS Cup and league MVP with the Kansas City Wizards in 2000, but he had two tours of duty with the old MetroStars and later the New York Red Bulls.
Meola said that it was special that he gained induction with former World Cup teammate Claudio Reyna, a native of New Jersey like Meola.
“I was Claudio’s captain in his first World Cup and he was my captain in my last,” Meola said. “No question, he’s my fellow teammate, my fellow Cavalier (both attended the University of Virginia) and fellow New Jerseyan. He’s a class guy and I respect him a lot.”
Meola doesn’t know when the official induction ceremonies will take place. When Harkes and Ramos were inducted in 2005, the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame had a headquarters in Oneonta, N.Y., but that location closed its doors two years ago.